Teach or Die

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . .

Is it any wonder that the burden to teach adults to read was first felt and acted upon by the church?

Over 80 years ago, Frank Laubach became a literacy pioneer while working as a missionary with the Moro people of the Philippines. After a slow start, he earned trust by learning their language and enough about their Muslim religion to discuss and exchange ideas. He then developed a dictionary and simple method of teaching them to read in their language.

Laubach needed 20 teachers plus volunteers to keep up with the eager Moros. When his depression-era funding ran out, a native chieftain saved the day: “I’ll make everybody who knows how to read teach somebody else, or I’ll kill him.”

Frank Laubach stamp

Laubach wrote in his journal, “Everybody taught. Nobody died. Everybody liked it. I did not like the motto ‘teach or die’ and so changed it to ‘Each One Teach One.’” (Lawson, Gregory, Frank C. Laubach:  Man of Faith)

“Each One Teach One” incited an evangelistic harvest among the Moros, with conversions to Christianity the norm. Laubach spread the campaign globally over the next two decades with continued success.

Today Literacy Connexus is still helping churches provide a friendly, non-threatening environment to adults who may feel ashamed asking for help with reading. As one Chicagoan put it, “Admitting you can’t read is just as scary as walking out in the street in front of a car.” (Chicago Tribune)

On February 24 volunteers affiliated with the Forward Training Center in Granbury, TX, will gather to learn how to teach adults to read better. They’ll use the Laubach Way to Reading materials as a core curriculum. And they’ll be thinking about strategies to take the fear out of asking for help.

Join us. Contact us for more information about teaching adults to read better.

Summer Time

We’ve had a great summer so far.


In June, Lakeshore Drive Baptist Church in Weatherford blessed families in Presidio with bookcases, books, and basketball. Three 90-minute sessions of basketball and a 3-on-3 tournament. Teachers at the local school, parents, and the children themselves, all appreciated the 15-20 books given to each child. The kids loved decorating their own bookcases!


Four more family reading fairs are in the planning stages for this fall, at other locations along the border.

Throughout June and July, we gave some  books to Agape Baptist Church in Cleburne as they provide meals and day camp activities to children in their community. We were amazed at the level of care and teaching the leaders of that program provided for seven straight weeks.


We’re excited about 11 ESL teacher training workshops across the state coming this fall.

Next on the agenda is the Literacy Texas Annual Conference.

Register for the Gulf Coast Literacy Conference

Guadalupe Quintanilla was told she was mentally retarded in the first grade. She was 13 years old and had just arrived in Brownsville, TX from Mexico. Communication and testing were all conducted in English, and the young girl had no chance of success. Sadly, she believed the verdict.

Today, Dr. Quintanilla is the President of the Cross Cultural Communication Center of Houston and an Associate Professor of the Department of Hispanic and Classical Languages of the University of Houston. She was the first Hispanic U.S. Representative to the United Nations in 1984, and served as co-chair of the National Institute of Justice and co-chair of the National Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans. Honors include induction to the National Hispanic Hall of Fame and to the Hispanic Women Hall of Fame.

Dr. Quintanilla has devoted much of her time to teaching Spanish in business, community, law enforcement, and legal settings. She has also led a charge against the high dropout rate among Hispanic students.

We look forward to welcoming Dr. Quintanilla  at the Gulf Coast Literacy Conference.

Click on announcement below to link to conference registration.

Online Support at Literacy Connexus ESL Google Group

Come Discover Our ESL Community Ministry

If you have ever wished for answers to questions about your ESL ministry, ever felt alone or under appreciated, or ever wished you had a way to pass along your knowledge and experience to other ESL teachers or directors, then this is the place for you.

Literacy Connexus is now hosting an un-moderated discussion forum (or blog if you prefer).  The idea is for our experienced trainers, teachers and ESL program administrators to actively participate in discussions to share information and encouragement.  Our hope is that teachers and administrators can visit this forum and learn about what others are doing, what is working, and what might be worth a try.

If you haven’t seen the new ESL group website, please come and check it out.  Only members are allowed to post, so by all means, if you have not joined – what are you waiting for?! Contact us now to be added to our growing list of members, and discover an online connection with ESL workers across the state.  We hope to see you soon!


Champion of Literacy Award Winner

Congratulations to Dr. Lester Meriwether, Literacy Connexus Executive Director. Lester was honored at the Literacy Texas Annual Conference in Austin, Texas on August 7, 2012.

Achievements cited included his creation of Books for the Border and Beyond, a project that encourages and equips parents to read to their infants and small children. Under his direction, the project has recruited hundreds of volunteers from churches across the state to help build bookcases and contribute books to some of the poorest families in Texas. Dr. Meriwether was applauded for his tireless work in guiding the development of faith-based literacy programs, an achievement for which he is recognized nationally.

We’re proud of our leader.

Champion of Literacy Award Winner Lester

Investing in the Process

Perhaps the word literacy on the receipt caught her eye.  After I explained to the clerk that my work is to help churches help persons with literacy needs, she said, “My husband can’t read.” I offered help. Thus began a two-and-a-half year journey through the Laubach Way to Reading.

I had been a promoter. A trainer. A minister encouraging churches to help people with literacy needs. Now I was challenged with the opportunity to slow down the travel and invest in the process.  My territory was merely the states west of the Mississippi River and Western Canada. Could I commit to meeting with an adult student once or twice a week? Could I trade breadth for depth?

My student was a disabled sixty-two year old who often took phone messages at home for his wife. But take them was all he did. He couldn’t write them. And he couldn’t read his Bible or the newspaper. But he was willing to try. And so was I.

“This is a bird with a long tail and a round body. This looks like a bird with a long tail and a round body. Say ‘B.’” Slowly we progressed through the consonants, then the vowels. I was amazed that an adult would really be interested in the stories in the little green, yellow, and blue books. My student read them carefully and deliberately. Then verses and chapters in his Bible. And then newspaper articles.

He wasn’t the only one who was learning. He was thirty years older than me. He had raised a family. Fought in a war. Worked on an assembly line. He was a teacher, too.

I still promote and train. And travel as a minister encouraging churches to help. My calling as a minister is not the traditional one. I am opening this window for you to better understand the connection between and literacy initiatives. We need each other. We need to work together.

It’s estimated that 3.8 million adults in Texas lack sufficient literacy skills. Texas LEARNS estimates that 100,000-plus are currently served through state and federally-funded adult education in Texas. No one knows how many are served through other programs (including faith-based). Probably all told under 200,000.

I’m convinced that people of faith are a great untapped resource for literacy programs across Texas. I’m convinced that there are dozens of ways churches can help people with literacy needs. Teaching basic literacy and ESL, yes. But also by providing books to children in support of family literacy. And mentoring in schools makes a difference, too. I also believe that advocating on behalf of education at the federal, state, and local levels is needed.